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Best Variable Star book for beginners

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#1 Chris K

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 11:29 PM

Any recommendations on best variable star book for beginners? (beginner with variables, not observing)

 

I will also go through the materials at the AAVSO but would like a book to read too.

 

Thank you



#2 Justin Fuller

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Posted 07 December 2021 - 12:48 AM

https://www.cambridg...0DEA371109A4553

This being the only book I've read on the subject, I don't know if it's the best one out there; but I enjoyed Levy's story telling amongst what I think is very practical advice on observing variables.
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#3 Alex_V

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Posted 07 December 2021 - 09:15 AM

Observing Variable Stars, Novae and Supernovae

Observer's Guide to Variable Stars

The Study of Variable Stars Using Small Telescopes


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#4 tdfwds

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Posted 09 December 2021 - 12:10 PM

https://www.cambridg...0DEA371109A4553

This being the only book I've read on the subject, I don't know if it's the best one out there; but I enjoyed Levy's story telling amongst what I think is very practical advice on observing variables.

I've got that one, it's not all that bad, some good examples to start with, but also they are selected as representative of their types.

 

Been out a long while, so if ridiculous money brand new (as many books, often when only reprints) try second hand online.

 

 

I've seen some of these.  These two authors, especially James, are CCDers first (actually not so sure about North) and James is also more into comet imagery, although he will be seen to do novae and supernovae, but not so sure on variables.  You may have seen his images online when new things come up, he's a BAAer.  I'd get a look at that one before committing money.

 

The "observer's" one, well, it's one in the "Patrick Moore series", and this is an uneven series altogether, some books have next to nothing in them (few pages, tons of intro but not much meat, making them relatively quite expensive and/or a one read only, as opposed to a reference source to go back to) and some are fine.  Another I'd want to check out first somehow, or get an in depth review of.

 

The study one, well, I dislike nearly everything Percy does, I feel he often misses the point, and his analyses of variable stars seem to come up with lots of wittering and rarely any result or conclusion, except sometimes some extreme conjectural one that has no support in the current data.  So that's up to you, looks to be out of print so it will be dated if you do want some electronic hints, and variability types can evolve a bit.

 

The Webb Deep Sky Society's handbook on variable stars, volume 8 I think, will also be out of print, but is a good intro and all the types are explained fully, then you get an example of each type, and John Isles certainly knows, or used to know, his variables (dunno if he is still around).  Some of the data on very low amplitude objects will be irrelevant to a visual and some CCD observers, and the book will be long in the tooth, but still the best for coming back to as a reference source, as well as being a good read and introduction.  Again, you'll have to search for a second hand one as it is out of print.

 

Burnham's has some good sections on variable stars, despite its age, tucked away in its interesting objects section for each variable star, should you possess a copy.

 

Finally, I'd also look at the BAAVSS website, there'll be links to resources there too. https://britastro.org/vss/ and https://britastro.org/section_front/22 plus this https://britastro.org/node/18890 which is even cheaper, as in free, and is a good intro to making measures.

 

I'm not a BAA member, but I have a bias towards their estimation of magnitudes, their 'fractional' method for fractional observers.  I do not like the simple AAVSO ten step method, for two reasons.  I've analysed variable stars using their visual data and the lower the amplitude the worse they are to use, reporting to only 1 decimal leads to what I call 'tramlines' in the lightcurves, the moreso the lower the object's amplitude, similarly the somewhat popular in the USA 'bortle' thing means nothing to me, and I have not bothered investigating it once I saw it was a ten point thing.  Also, 10, or any decimal route for that matter, is a bad idea for humans.  Magnitudes are a logarithm for a reason (if we did it in brightnesses that'd be weird, remember there's supposed to be a range of 1 to 100 levels of brightness for a mag range of 5), same with hearing 'decibels', and several other things we use our senses to detect.  When you use the fractional method you rarely go beyond A(1)V(3)B (depending on what the comparison stars are as to the letters), if even that, you need a sequence that's fairly tight, not whole magnitudes away from the likely variable magnitudes, and it works for me, I can't guess tenths of a magnitude at all.  Some would say precision is lost when compared to ten stops.  Well, it depends on the truth of that precision, I'm always more interested in accuracy over precision, there's also a lot of rubbish claims about precision (which again, does not mean accuracy), especially amongst CCD photometrists.  They tend to get some measure of their ADU or something or do an SNR off their equipment.  Bunkum.  The true precision is to measure your variable, one of the comparison stars, and another of the comparison stars.  Then you not only measure the variable relative to the comparison star, you also measure the two comparison stars against each other, for every frame.  The standard deviation of those measures are your precision.  Or, alternatively, you can take the mean of the comparison versus comparison measures, subtract that value from each measure, and just plot up the remainder, the 'residuals' over time, and I doubt you'll see the 0.01 precision in that scatter plot that people often claim.  Stastics not withstanding, statistics is a measuring an probability tool, not a means of tweaking things until you see an answer you like.

 

But that's me ; )

 

Anyway, those books are more or less it, I've heard the RASC (the canada astronomy group) has good literature too, you can see if they have any handbooks or downloadable freebie guides, and other national organisations will exist, depending on your language skills, though most of them are not much more than a database.


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#5 obrazell

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Posted 09 December 2021 - 03:16 PM

John Isles is certainly still around and is the Webb Soc North American Sec. He may still have some new copies of Vol 8 but if not they are very cheap second hand. There are no reviews of Griffiths book as far as I know but he is not a varible star observer and his other books have a lot of issues so I would be leary of that one.


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#6 Chris K

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Posted 09 December 2021 - 10:11 PM

Thank you all!



#7 Markus Tang

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Posted 15 December 2021 - 07:01 PM

John R. Percy's Understading Variable Stars, highly recommended.


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